House of Darkness Review
House of Darkness releases to limited theaters on Friday, Sept. 9.
Playwright-turned-filmmaker Neil LaBute leads star Justin Long to the slaughter in a gothic, chatty spin on the Bram Stoker-verse with House of Darkness. Given that LaBute's first film -- 1997's In the Company of Men -- was his own play adapted for the screen, it makes sense that House of Darkness feels like a spare stage play brought to life in a slightly bigger way, and there's a risk-taking element that's to be commended with that. But the end result is still a rather dry, one-note entanglement that doesn't offer up any reprieve for viewers who are in on the bit.
Long is at his most stumbly, bumbly self here as a cad who, for 90 minutes, is forced to explain himself over and over because of his feeble flirting and small talk while on a date with a mysterious woman played by Kate Bosworth. Long is very good at this mix of arrogance and awkwardness, as this is not his first (nor his last) time playing a s***heel who winds up in the wrong house, on the business end of horror, but House of Darkness is wears very thin over time.
Once you figure out what's in store for Long's "hoping to get lucky tonight" Hap, who has a hard time matching up his lies and insecurities with his "nice guy" persona, there's not much more at play here other than finding meager joy in Bosworth's terse, to-the-point character cutting this guy down with just a few words -- or, usually, with questions asking him to clarify his intent. LaBute made a name for himself writing about masculinity and gender disparity so watching it play out in a spooky setting is refreshing. The film itself, though, isn't able to sustain under the staging and setting, so a stagnancy sets in.
Would House of Darkness have been made and presented differently outside of the pandemic era or was the idea always to blend a two-person date play into something vampiric (with female empowerment overpinnings)? Regardless, the end result is an interesting misfire that only really carries itself across the finish line by relying on our sheer desire to see this guy get demolished and for it all to be over. Oh, and Bosworth being drop-dead hypnotic as the lady, Mina, who's invited a bar-bro home to her freezing cold country castle.
House of Darkness isn't exactly a two-person gig, though, as one of the ways the story pushes itself along is with the introduction of Gia Crovatin (Billions, Syfy's Van Helsing) as another dweller in the manor who only serves to help Long's tipsy tomcat dig himself into a deeper hole, desire-wise. This definitely aids the back half of the film but, simultaneously, presents more of the same, adding to the dastardly repetition at work. Dracula fans may latch onto small tells and talismans here and there but the final result is still a movie that makes its point early and then doesn't offer much afterward.
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This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Matt Fowler
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